10 strange rituals from around the world! These are some of the most bizarre traditions & ceremonies found in different cultures that you won’t believe actually exist.
10: The Phuket Vegetarian Festival
The people of Thailand show their appreciation to animals in a yearly ritual known as both the Phuket Vegetarian Festival & the Nine Emperor Gods Festival. Participants in Myanmar, Indonesia, Malaysia, & Singapore observe the ritual for nine days every October. In Thailand, however, they take it to extreme measures. The festival reaches its pinnacle in Phuket when people stick knives & other sharp objects into their faces, cheeks, tongues, legs, & arms. This is done in addition to not eating meat during the ritual, which is the participant’s way of showing their devotion to God & their beliefs. While death & other injuries have been known to occur on rare instances during these ceremonies, they’re usually regarded as being very safe. The impalings are always carried out by doctors with medical staff present. Participants often spend weeks preparing & usually suffer no longterm effects from the ritual.
9: Crucifixion in the Philippines
Every year on Good Friday, some Christians in the Philippines imitate the crucifixion of Jesus Christ to commemorate the iconic event. This is done to show their devotion to their faith & as a sign of gratitude for the mercy & forgiveness bestowed upon them by their God. But the Catholic Church of the Philippines does not endorse this ritual, often calling for participants to refrain from it, as some of them actually use nails to pin themselves to the cross. In addition to the church, medical experts also discourage people from participating in this event but do suggest that if they really insist on taking part in the ceremonies, they should receive tetanus shots & use clean nails. Even without church’s the blessing, thousands of spectators gather to watch different people imitate Christ’s crucifixion, which also includes self flagellation, carrying the wooden cross, & having their hands & feet nailed to the cross. The event even has people dressed up like Roman soldiers that carry out the mock executions. Some people take part in the crucifixions multiple times. Ruben Enaje, for example, is a Filipino painter that has subjected himself to crucifixion each year since 1987 as a way of showing gratitude to God after he survived a fall off a tall billboard in 1986.
8: The Thaipusam Festival Piercings
Thaipusam is a Hindu festival celebrated in the countries of Sri Lanka, India, Malaysia, Myanmar, Singapore, & anywhere else with a strong Tamil influence, or a community within Hinduism. The festival is held every year in honor of Lord Murugan, the Hindu God of War. Each year during the Thaipusam festivities, participants will pierce different parts of their body with skewers while also pulling heavy objects called Kavadi & at the same time begging Lord Murugan to assist them with their burden. In some instances, they will even impale their cheeks with spears. This ceremony is particularly popular in Malaysia, as over a million people gather at the Batu Caves to watch. In addition to piercing themselves with skewers, participants & observers will often hold prayer sessions for the days & weeks leading up to the event while also abstaining from meat & sex.
7: The Dani Tribe’s Finger Cutting
The Dani Tribe of Indonesia is known to mark the death of a tribe member by having female members of the tribe cut off tips of their fingers during the funeral. This is a symbolic gesture that is meant to display, quite literally, the pain & suffering that comes from losing a loved one. It is also rooted in a belief that if they don’t carry out this deed, the deceased person’s spirit will linger & haunt the village. One will typically tie a string around their finger for half an hour before amputation to ensure a painless cut. After the finger is cut off, it’s cauterized to prevent too much blood loss. Located in a remote part of the Papua Province in Indonesia, there’s estimated to be around 250,000 members of the Dani Tribe. According to the website, “The Plaid Zebra” the practice has been outlawed in recent years, so it is often older women in the tribe who continue this tradition. It is not clear what, if any, legal ramifications there are for participating in this ritual.
6: The Aghori
Mainly located in parts of India, the Aghori are a religious sect of Hinduism known for their post-mortem rituals. These rituals involve smearing the cremated ashes of the dead all over their bodies & using human bones to make kapalas, or a type of cup made from human bones or skulls. They’re most notorious for their practice of worshipping & cannibalizing the dead as well as necrophilia as a means of obtaining spiritual enlightenment. By some accounts, they will even bite the heads off live animals during religious rituals. These practices are not accepted by more mainstream Hindu leaders. The Aghori have therefore been somewhat exiled from the rest of Hinduism. Feared by the rest of India, the Aghori are rumored to be able to predict the future, walk on water, & foretell “evil prophecies.” The group often dwells in cemeteries & uses marijuana & alcohol along with their meditation to help achieve their advanced sense of enlightenment & awareness.
5: Sky Burials
Practiced mainly in China, Mongolia, Bhutan, & Nepal, a sky burial is a Tibetan Buddhist ritual that involves placing a corpse at the top of the mountain & leaving it exposed to the elements & scavengers. This practice is rooted in the Tibetan belief that once a person has died, their body is simply an empty vessel that they must dispose of in a generous manner. One way is to use the body to provide food for scavenging animals. Doing so is an act of compassion, which is one of the main teachings of Buddhism. The tradition of sky burials can be traced back to ancient times, dating back to more than 11,000 years. Many believe the ritual likely began out of practicality since it’s had ceremonial purposes for such a long time, according to The Book of the Dead. While the ritual has mostly been abandoned & even outlawed in most urban areas, sky burials still happen in rural parts of the region.
4: The Death Rites of the Yanomami Tribe
The Yanomami Tribe populates various parts of the Amazon rainforest & is known for their practice of a type of cannibalism known as endocannibalism. This means that when a member of the tribe dies, their flesh is consumed by members of their family or tribe. According to one source, the Yanomami Tribe does not believe death occurs naturally. They believe instead that it occurs because a witch doctor from another tribe sent evil spirits to specifically target the deceased. To rid the village of the evil spirit, they must cremate the body then consume the ashes in order to keep the spirit of the recently deceased tribe member alive for many years. The ashes will usually be mixed into some sort of soup that the entire tribe can enjoy & is often mixed with fermented bananas.
3: Space Burials
As its name would suggest, space burials are when a person’s remains are launched into space. The ashes remain sealed inside the spacecraft as it travels to its destination, which could be anywhere from the moon or to other solar systems in deep space. The idea was first proposed in a 1931 magazine story but wasn’t actually implemented until April 21st, 1997 when the private company Celestis launched several notable people’s remains into space. Some of those names include Star Trek creator Gene Roddenberry, rocket scientist Krafft Ehricke, physicist Gerard K. O’neil, and writer & professor Timothy Leary. Since then, many other people have had their remains launched into space such as former Star Trek actors James Doohan & Majel Barrett as well as famous astronauts like William Reid Pogue & L. Gordon Cooper, Jr.
2: Modern Day Witch Hunts
Witch hunts have a long & storied history as part of human civilization. References to punishing witches date as far back as the 18th century BC’s Code of Hammurabi & the Twelve Tables of Roman Law in 451 BC. The most notable of witch hunt stories come from the middle ages as well as 17th-century America & the Salem Witch Trials. In some parts of the world, however, this practice is still prevalent. Since 2001, an estimated 20,000 people have been killed for supposedly being a witch. The vast majority of these people have been women who were accused by a neighbor, friend, or acquaintance & was often the result of some sort of personal feud. While such incidents occur all over the world, the majority of them take place in India & Papua New Guinea, where ritual witch hunts & burnings still occur. A Huffington Post story by Kent Russell describes a 20-year old mother of two who was kidnapped by a group of men that blamed her for the death of their six-year old relative. In these types of societies, any death that cannot be explained is almost always blamed on witchcraft. The woman was stripped naked, tortured, then burned to death by the villagers, who believed they were ridding themselves of an evil spirit. In 2015, ISIS militants beheaded two women who were accused by their husbands of sorcery. While the root cause of such activity is still believed to be superstition & a belief in magic, it is at times used as an excuse for certain villages or tribes to rid themselves of marginalized people, such as the elderly, the sick, or anyone who’s considered a burden. Human rights groups consider this to be one of the most pervasive human rights violations in the world.
1: Cruel & Unusual Punishments
Even in modern times, it is still customary in some cultures to practice some very unusual forms of punishment. In the 1960s, for example, Arkansas’s Tucker State Prison Farm used a method known as the Tucker Telephone to discipline inmates who got out of line. This meant tying a phone cord around the big toe & attaching it to a wire that was tied around the genitals. The phone would then be used to repeatedly send electric shocks to the genitals. Another example is America’s Central Intelligence Agency, or CIA, who’s known for their advanced interrogation techniques like the cold cell. The cold cell involves placing a prisoner in front of an air conditioning unit, turning it up to full blast, then leaving them there until they get whatever information is needed. In the case of Vhuen Van Tai—a high ranking Vietcong Officer during the Vietnam War—he was placed in a tiny hut with the air conditioner on full blast for four straight years.